Posts Tagged ‘prison system’

Once in a while, a man in prison excels at writing. Such a man was Mike. I gave him a few principles of writing and off he went. Soon his talent was as good as mine – no, he was better than me.

Mike and I decided to write a book together. We would call it Inside/Out. He, the insider, would say that prison did do some good for guys, even though there were problems. He would not write boring treatises, rather he would tell the stories of individuals. As for me, the outsider, I would stand against the whole prison system and tell stories of how it had ruined the lives of several people.

I wrote my part of the book and Mike wrote his. We were both finished and ready to put together a book. But something happened. Mike came up for parole, but he was rejected because his roommate had a cellphone. That sounds crazy and impossible, but that’s exactly what happened. The cellphone was on Mike’s side of his two man cell, but everyone knew that it belonged not to Mike, but to the roommate.

Mike got a year and a half more in prison. More programs to take even though he’d already taken them. We taxpayers spent $50,000 keeping him there. He was the poster-person for the fact that prison exists mostly for the sake of the staff and the guards.

Mike decided that he no longer liked what he had written for our book. In effect, he said I was right, that prison helped no one. He scrapped his section and started over and, in my opinion, he did a much better job this time.

As with any book that’s written by more than one person, there’s usually conflict. And so it was with Mike and I. Mike felt bad that his section was longer than mine, much longer. But I argued that I was comfortable with my section. I told my story with as many words as I wanted. If I were to make my section longer, it would clearly go against the rule to ‘cut the fat.’

So we published Dystopia and it’s done well on the market. It’s my story of going to prison and it’s Mike’s. He was arrested in Mexico for smuggling drugs and served two years in a Mexican prison and then eight years in a Canadian prison. Mike’s out now and has been for four years. He’s got a little entertainment business and works as an MC on occasion.

Even the word Dystopia I learned from an inmate, a man who called himself the only Jewish inmate in the whole prison.

Dystopia is a society of human misery, squalor, disease, terror and overcrowding. It is the opposite of Utopia.

The current state of the prison system is dismal at best. There are currently more than 2.3 million individuals incarcerated in the United States, and of these, nearly 85% either have a drug problem serious enough to meet the DSM-IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, or are a part of the penal system as a result of a drug-related offense.

Obviously, this is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed. Whatever correlation you wish to draw from the data, there is obviously a connection between chemical abuse and being in prison. For this reason, it is important to consider how instituting strong drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs are essential to prison reform.

These numbers need to come down.

Obviously, the overall number of prisoners in this country needs to be reduced, but the statistics above need to faced. We are not currently running a crime-prevention system, we are running a holding and breeding house for the country’s worst drug addicts. Nothing good can come from that.

The need to get high is a good reason to commit crime.

That should, of course, be taken in context. Many of the people in prison are there because of drug-related crimes, or because they needed money to get high. If you aren’t dealing with the drug addiction, you’re not dealing with the heart of the problem.

For many people, prison isn’t a great deterrent to what they are doing, because all they are thinking about is the next opportunity to use. Deal with that problem; let less junkies back out on the street, and watch your recidivism rate drop.

You have a captive audience.

For better or worse, these people are prisoners and wards of the state. Though you obviously can’t force them to change their behaviors, you have already embarked on a commitment to help them change their lives. Why not make a practical use of that time; requiring these inmates to face the issues of their addictions?

While already within the confines of our prison system, it only makes sense to show prisoners better options for conducting their lives. That means extending rehabilitative services on all fronts, rather than just dealing with the daily doldrums of being locked up, and the ongoing tension of prison life.

The system is there to rehabilitate these captive members of our community, and that means not only giving them time to think about the crimes they’ve committed, but mechanisms to understand the reasons they committed them, as well.  Helping prisoners understand what led them down the wrong path is the first step toward avoiding it in the future.

Many inmates are ready for a change.

On the other hand, for many addicts, landing in prison is their taste of hitting the bottom – hard. They are well aware they have problems, and desperately would like to get out of the rut that put them in prison – if only they were given a serious opportunity for a second chance.

It’s a better option.

Ultimately, whether you want to believe it or not, being behind bars doesn’t mean you can’t get high. Certainly, there’s more trouble and risk involved, but if you’ve reached this level, it’s hardly a concern. Depending on whom you are and who you know, many of the obstacles of using drugs when you’re behind bars can fall away. And regardless of your access inside, there is plenty of availability once you are out on the streets.

Rehabilitation efforts change prisoners’ perspectives, furnishing hope for better lives outside incarceration. Filling inmates’ time with positive intervention opens their eyes to the greater possibilities both on the inside and outside. Rehabilitation reminds inmates there is a path to salvation, enabling them to break free from their own limiting addictions.

Daphne Holmes is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

What is your opinion? Which came first, the prison or the addict?